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November 2008
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December 2008

PS3 Media Hub Mystery

Nyko Media Hub+ One month later I'm still really enjoying the Sony PlayStation 3 experience.  As I said before, I sprang for the 160 GB bundle, and while I haven't missed the lack of PlayStation 2 compatibility, I do find myself wanting extra USB ports and memory card slots on the console.  Then while browsing I came across this Media Hub+ accessory from Nyko that snaps in to the left USB port on the PS3 and features 3 USB ports and a memory card slot for SD cards and memory sticks.  Have any of you out there used one of these?  Does it work?  Or is it another sketchy third-party accessory?  I'm thinking about ordering one, but if it's a piece of junk then obviously I'd rather not waste my money.  So, is there anyone with any experience with it out there?

Mario Licensing Madness

Super Mario Bros. game watchThe holidays aren't just about giving and receiving video games as gifts.  They're also about giving and receiving miscellaneous items that are tangentially related to video games.  For twenty-five years now Nintendo fans have been enjoying all sorts of licensed products that feature the smiling face of everyone's favorite plumber, and Wii Fanboy has taken the liberty of compiling a little photo gallery of some of the best, worst, and most bizarre items to come from the kingdom of Super Mario.  They even list my Nelsonic Super Mario Bros. game watch.

Ya gotta tell time. Why not do it with these lovely Mario-themed wristwatches. The one pictured on the left best fits the nerdy-and-proud type of consumer while the other features a more elegant, middle-aged-with-kids-but-still-hopelessly-invested-in-video-games style.

I had a few of the items listed in the gallery when I was a child.  There's the watch, of course, but also the collector pins (I still have those, actually), the snacks, one of the towels, and the doll (which I also still have in storage, and, excuse me, that's "stuffed animal" as we used to call these sort of things).  The world of Nintendo was a really expensive and strange place back in the day.

Weekly Poll: December Loot '08

Weekly Poll for 12-22-2008Like most of you out there, I enjoy what Trophies and Achievements bring to the gaming table.  The only real problem I have with the Trophy system is that it seems the only games I complete on the Sony PlayStation 3 are the games that do not have Trophy support.  I've finished games like Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction, The Simpsons Game, and Bionic Commando: Rearmed, but do I get easily provable bragging rights for that?  Nope!  Sony is insisting on Trophy support for all new PS3 games from here on out, so at least my accomplishments will be rewarded with little metaphorical blue ribbons soon enough.

As we do every year it's time to take a moment and reflect on the true meaning of the December holidays: gifts!  Especially game-related gifts.  So, once again, I ask you: did you get all of the games you wanted as presents? Vote in the poll and share your stories of holiday acquisition.  As always, feel free to brag a little, too.

Sonic Spins Several Storybook Sagas

Sonic and the Black Knight With Sonic Unleashed behind him, Sonic the Hedgehog is gearing up for his next adventure in Sonic and the Black Knight for the Nintendo Wii.  This sequel to 2007's Sonic and the Secret Rings drops Sonic inside another familiar storybook setting, and judging by Sega's newly revealed "Sonic Storybook Series", it won't be his last visit to famous fiction.

Recently, we got to show you what Europe's version of Sonic and the Black Knight would look like, though the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection logo was mysteriously absent. Not so for the American version, however, which also reveals the title as being a part of the now-officially labeled "Sonic Storybook Series," which seems to imply that SEGA and Sonic Team hope to do more follow-ups to Secret Rings and Black Knight. The only question is, what stories might be next?

I can think of plenty of other fairy tale plots for Sonic to visit.  How about if Sonic has to defeat an evil reptile king and his endless hordes in order to rescue a princess? Or what if Sonic has to slay a vampire that rises every century inside a chaotic castle filled with classic and mythological monsters? Ooh, ooh, I got it; how about if Sonic has to thwart the ambitions of an inventor who has created eight mechanical men in a bid to conquer the world? There are just so many original possibilities.

Now We'll Never Escape From Krusty Island

Homer Simpson A year ago I reviewed The Simpsons Game from Electronic Arts for the Nintendo Wii and came away impressed with the animated segments that progressed the story instead of the core gameplay.  I was even more disappointed though when I found out that the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 versions of the game had more content than the dumbed-down Wii edition.  I missed being able to explore the Springfield overworld that was excluded in the Wii version, so even though I'd finished the game, I made a note to revisit it in the future on one of this generation's powerhouse consoles.

Now that time has come and I've been working my way through the PS3 version of the game over the last few days, and now I'm impressed with the core gameplay and visuals.  The PS3 edition actually looks like the television show at times, whereas the Wii version's character models are blocky and downright ugly during extreme close-ups.  And yes, I've made it my mission to fully explore the Springfield overworld.  There's still a missing piece of the puzzle, however.  The game has a menu option for downloadable content that is/was supposedly going to be released via the PlayStation Network.  Here we are a year after the game's release and I find no mention of any extra material on the PlayStation Store.  What happened?  Did the game not sell well enough to justify extra content?  Did the developers just decide to move on to new projects?  Did I miss a memo somewhere?  What gives, EA?

Happy Holidays From PTB

Christmas with the KongsHere's hoping you're waking up to that new game console or stack of games about which you've been dreaming and subtly dropping hints to loved ones.  Even though I don't go all-out for Christmas, I still love this time of year.  Everything slows down and it's as if society takes a few days to just breathe and relax.  Enjoy the season and work on all those projects you've been postponing such as rescuing the princess, slaying zombies, saving the world, winning the war, beating your best lap time, or building the best level ever for Sackboy to explore.  Work, school, or however you normally spend your days can wait a while.

The Rise And Fall Of Agathor

American Dad - Dungeons and Wagons You can keep your World of Warcraft and your Everquest.  The most entertaining MMORPG I've ever seen is Dragon Scuffle.  About a year and a half ago I told you about the "Dungeons and Wagons" episode of FOX's American Dad in which Steve Smith and his friends leap into the the world of online gaming.  Steve becomes the mighty Agathor... at least until his sister Hayley enters the fray as Morwin Nerdbane and slays him with a single spoken word.  Seeking redemption, Hayley and her on-again, off-again boyfriend Jeff (as Zamfir the man-goat thing) embark on a dangerous quest to bring Agathor back to life in a hilarious skewering of the gaming genre.  Oh, and there's a subplot about patriarch Stan Smith becoming an illegal street racer to excite his wife.  For those of you who missed it the first time around, the episode is back online for free legal viewing (in North America) over at Hulu.  Be sure to stay all the way to the end for the final perfect punchline.

Kombo Editor's Top 10 Games of 2008

Nathan SpencerWe're coming into the home stretch of 2008 and you know what that means: best-of lists.  Tons of 'em.  For every conceivable topic.  Things are no different over at Kombo where we're kicking off our annual listing of the year's best games.  There'll be more to see later from Kombo as a whole, but for now take a look at the best ten games ranked by each individual Kombo editor (including me!).  Here's a bit of what I had to say:

Somehow I ended up playing more video games this year than in any previous year in recent memory. I didn't set out to achieve that; it just sort of happened. The consequence of trying to keep the size of the impending backlog down is that I didn't get to spend as much time as I'd have liked with any one game. I also jumped into the PlayStation 3 pool this year, opening up my gaming options beyond the mostly lackluster Wii titles that have dominated the release schedule for most of the past few months.

There are two games that missed landing in my top ten for different reasons and I want to take a moment to acknowledge them here.  Capcom's Mega Man 9 missed out because I forgot all about it when I was thinking back on all that I had played this year.  I don't know how I missed it when I remembered to include other games that were released solely as downloadable products.  The other game that was left behind is Burnout Paradise from Electronic Arts which I hadn't actually played when I compiled my list.  There's quite a lead time on this stuff, so in the weeks between meeting the Kombo deadline and publication I finally decided to give Burnout a try and have come away loving it.  So, Capcom and Electronic Arts, don't feel left out.  You both did well this year too as far as I'm concerned.

Sonic Saves Santa In Christmas Blast

Sonic Christmas Blast We just can't have Christmas without some villain attempting to spoil the fun, and while Pac-Man saved the holiday back in 1982, which popular pop culture character could possibly step up and do the same in the futuristic world of 1996?  Let's see... 1996... post-Mario, pre-Pikachu... ah, it must be Sonic the Hedgehog!  When Dr. Robotnik kidnaps Santa Claus and declares himself the new top elf, he changes the rules so that everyone must give him presents instead of the other way around.  This will not stand!  Sonic and Tails go the extra mile to set things right, and you can learn all about what the history books won't teach you in Platypus Comix's recap of Sonic Christmas Blast.

Then Santa notices that Sonic is now wearing a ring with a weird squiggle on it, which was one of the gifts Sally gave him last year. "I KNOW I've seen that symbol before! It was carved into the caves where I was imprisoned!" They go back to the cave again and Santa reads the rest of the squiggles. "It says anybody who has that ring can unlock the secrets of ULTIMATE VELOCITY! Super speed!" Well, Sonic already has that. What good will this do? Actually it's supposed to be speed even more super than Sonic is normally capable of. Y'know, instead of pulling something like this out of their hats, or worse areas, they could have done a tiny bit of research into the games they're basing the special on, and said Sonic can transform into Super Sonic by collecting a Chaos Emerald. That I'd accept, even if it's deux ex machina, because it's canon. This, however, screams lazy.

Animated material based on a beloved video game character often contradicts the source material in some way, but considering that it's the holiday season I suppose we can find it in our hearts to forgive the company behind this, DIC, for the error.  However, I am less forgiving about the company causing Sonic's gaming downfall.  Yes, the truth can finally be revealed about the animation division's role in causing just about every subsequent Sonic game to fail to live up to the original Sega Genesis adventures.  Behold the terrible truth!

Continue reading "Sonic Saves Santa In Christmas Blast" »

SPRay Review At Kombo

SPRay I've played some frustrating and uninspired games before, but it's been a long time since I encountered an adventure as broken and lazy as Tecmo's new SPRay for the Nintendo Wii.  I went into this one with optimism and interest regarding the game's core gimmick (spray fluids such as water or vomit to solve puzzles and manipulate the environment), but in the end SPRay manages to disappoint in just about every possible way.  My review of the game is now available at Kombo.

While the lack of polish certainly isn't helping, ultimately it's the broken and tedious gameplay that sinks SPRay. The game wants to match The Legend of Zelda's trademark dungeons with Super Mario Sunshine's FLUDD water pack gimmick, but in trying to ape these elements the developers missed the entire point. The dungeons sport lackluster puzzles that often need to be repeated in different locations. Some puzzles seem to guard nothing in particular. Other challenges are just hopelessly baffling and fail to provide that little inkling of what needs to be done to move on or why the task even needs to be completed.

I never thought it would come to this, but I have to take issue with SPRay's vomit.  Vomit is used (among other things) to reveal invisible bridges.  Just douse the black emptiness with it to stain the bridges a visible reddish color.  The problem is that the red vomit is semi-transparent against the bottomless void, so when the camera shifts while I'm crossing the bridge, I lose my bearings because I can't tell where the red coloring actually ends in relation to the path.  This is going to sound terrible, but if the vomit were more realistic and featured chunks of stuff, it would provide a little texture to the ground that would make it easier to tell at a glance where the bridge ends.  Did I just call for realistic video game vomit?  I think it's time to go rest for a while.